SWOT-analysis is generally used to systematically characterize a particular situation, project or problem with regards to its’ internal strengths and weakness as well as its external opportunities and threats. It’s a systematic tool for identifying strategies to utilize strengths, taking note for the weaknesses, utilizing the opportunities and making it easier to decrease threats. Even though SWOT-analysis has typically been used by organizations and businesses, it’s a good individual tool as well.
In learning activities SWOT-analysis can be used to uncover new learning opportunities and eliminate anticipated threats in the learning environment. In personal contexts it can help us to take advantage of our existing skills and abilities. It’s better to do the analysis with a mentor or partner in order to provide possibilities to brainstorming and alternative perspectives. However, it’s feasible by yourself, too.
“SWOT” stands for “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Opportunities” and “Threats”. It’s quite straightforward to draw a SWOT-matrix yourself. There are also lots of resources in the Internet for that purpose and applications in App Store or Android Market as well. I’ll include a simple SWOT-matrix in this post just to give an example.
Going ahead with your SWOT-analysis you can ask yourself e.g. following questions:
What am I good with? What do others see in me that I’m good with? What do I like to do? What resourses are available for me? Or, if you are reflecting your previous activities, you could also ask yourself what went well and why and what shall I do the same way next time?
Are there matters or skills in where I’m not good enough? Are there any obstacles that could hinder or slow down learning? Are the skills, qualities or knowledge I need to improve that I’m aware of? Or, when reflecting activities, what went badly and why? What shall I do better next time? What shall I do radically differently next time?
How could I use my strengths to compensate my weaknesses? What strategies could I develop or use in order to utilize my strengths and to compensate my weaknesses? What motivates me? What changes, even small ones, could I make to learn/change better? What possibilities can I see for developing my learning? In order to reflect former activities you could ask yourself what went unexpectedly well and why or are there any new directions to be explored or new activities you could be part of?
Are there issues or situations I feel uncomfortable with? What are the obstacles or barriers that I face? Do they present threats to my learning? Are there things that make learning slow or difficult? What de-motivates me? Reflective questions fit for the purpose could be: What went unexpectedly badly and why? Why did I not foresee what happened? What assumptions are to be checked?
There are some pitfalls to be avoided:
- It’s better to do the analysis with a partner or counselor; so it’s possible to see your situation from a wider point of view.
- You’ll need proper instructions to do the analysis.
- You’ll need to have time and space enough to generate good atmosphere for the analysis.
- You’ll need to understand that the analysis is a snapshot of your current perspectives; your perspectives are changing and the analysis varies day in, day out.
- You’ll need to be comfortable to create space for brainstorming ideas and perspectives. If you are doing the analysis with a partner, it’s up to you to decide if you want to share the results.
- You’ll need to bear in mind that it’s easier to find weaknesses and threats than strengths and opportunities; you’ll need to put to use all your self-esteem in order to transcend the threshold of drawing attention to things that might block creative thinking.
- You’ll need to think the analysis as a positive and comfortable process which is of use to better learning and change in your meaning perspectives.
- Finally, if you are working as a mentor giving counsel through a SWOT-analysis, you’ll need to understand that guiding a mentee provides for you also an opportunity to learn and benefits your professional advancement.